Classroom Pictures #msSunFun


If you follow my blog, you know that I have had a pretty busy summer, welcoming twins into our family along with our 2 year old.  So my room hasn’t changed much from last year.  But thanks to my mom, things are almost all set up and ready to go!  Thanks Mom 🙂  Here are some of my favorite things from my room…

Room Pic 4

I use these pages for whole class management.  Each class starts off with 5 points at the beginning of the hour.  When the majority of the class isn’t on task or at an appropriate noise level, I erase one point.  I color in that many squares at the end of the hour on the 100’s chart.  When the class reaches 100 points, they  are able to play games in class for part of the hour.  I am excited to use Class DoJo this year and I’m not sure how those two things will work together.  I will update you 🙂

Room Pic 3

This is my vocab board.  I am focusing much more on vocab this year.  I used the vocab from the Georgia Department of Ed Content Area Frameworks which I really recommend and, no, I am not from Georgia.  I created these signs as well as a vocab packet for the students to work on.

Vocab Signs

Vocab Packet

Room Pic 2

I covered (my mom covered) my bookshelves with cool contact paper this year.  Brightens things up a bit!




Room Pic 1

This board is pretty much the same as last year.  I love my volume scale.  The flower is on a clothespin so I can move it to the noise level I want.  I did add the descriptions of our scoring scales (SBG).

Room Pic 5

This is something I have done for years that I am changing a bit based on something on pinterest that I saw.  I put all papers from past lessons in this bin so students can always get extra copies.  I have hanging file folders with page protectors stapled to the front.  I put a master copy in the page protector and the rest of the pages in the folder.  If there are no more copies, all students have to do is bring me the master.  This year, I am going to add tabs for all of the days of the month so that students can look in the folder of the day they need and find what they are looking for.

I think that’s it for now!


#msSunFun- Homework


When I began teaching, we used the Saxon program and all kids had to do 30 problems each night.  I graded all of them.  I have no idea how/why I did this.  It was completely pointless.  Throughout the years, I have really struggled with homework.  I find it to be much more of a stressor for me since there are always kids who don’t do it and I hate that I care more about doing it than they do.  I do think it is very important for students to practice the skills we learn in class independently, and I really don’t like that we are moving toward kids not being used to having to do things like homework and I think we are setting them up to fail in high school and college when they must do these things or else they will just fail.  Unfortunately, when I get a 7th grader who has already learned that homework isn’t important somewhere along the way, I don’t feel like I have a whole lot I can do to convince them. 

What I have been doing for the last several years is assigning problems, but having the kids grade the homework themselves.  I talk a ton at the beginning of the year, and whenever I feel like they are forgetting this, that I am letting them correct their own homework because it is so important that they know what they know already and know what they need to work on, but that this only works if they are trying their best on the homework, and actually correcting it and asking questions if they get things wrong.  I have also been assigning a lot fewer problems at night (usually between 4 and 6 problems) and really trying to make sure it is not something that would provide them too much struggle.  Then they come in the nexet day, open their notebooks and walk around to see who has it done and who does not.  I comment on certain things I see or don’t see when I walk around as well.  Then I do the entire homework assignment with the help of the students, on the Elmo so that everyone can see what they should have done.  If they didn’t do their homework, they aren’t allowed to have out a writing utensil, but if they did their homework, they are required to fix and make notes on their assignment. 

With our SBG gradbook, we also have a homework module where we can simply check off whether a student does an assignment or not.  Then this combines into the “work management” section of our gradebook and gives them a score for how many assignments they have done.  While I like this, I also know that kids figure out pretty fast that doing vs not doing their homework really doesn’t affect their grade at all, and so many middle school kids lack the motivation to do the work simply because it will help them out.

One thing that I think helps is that we have an assessment pretty much daily after the homework is corrected that is on the material we learned the previous day.  So doing the homework often will have a big impact on whether they are able to easily take the quiz or not.

I don’t think it is a perfect system, but it is working well for me/us at this point!


#msSunFun- Grading Policies


This week’s #msSunFun is on our grading policies.  I know many people in the teaching world right now are moving toward standards based grading or are trying to make the decision.  I actually don’t have to make that movement or choice because we already do SBG district wide and our gradebook is set up just for this purpose.

This is the third year my school has done SBG, and I actually moved to this school the year they started doing it.  Previously I did traditional grading at my old school.  There are many many things I like about SBG, although I do feel like some things are a bit more difficult, and it is definitely something you have to get used to and work on in order to fully understand.

We have a 4 point scale.  a 3.0 is understanding grade level material, a 4.0 is going above and beyond grade level, a 2.0 is having the basic knowledge needed, a 1.0 is being able to complete grade level material only with a lot of assistance.  Students can also earn 0.5, 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5 for being in between (or below in the case of 0.5) those things.

I would say the biggest thing I have learned is to make sure to write down a scale for each one of my assessments to keep things consistent.  So if I give a 4 question quiz on area of trapezoids, I would write down something like

4 correct = 3.0

3 correct = 2.5

2 correct = 2.0

1 correct = 1.0

This part would totally depend on the type of material I was assessing.  Even more importantly, I would look at the mistakes each students could make.  For example, students could choose the wrong formula, they could use the correct formula, but instead of adding the bases, they could multiply them, they could do a basic multiplication or addition miscalculation, they could not include units at the end, they could not square the units… so then I decide where I think these things fall on the scale of “understanding” the problem or “meeting grade level”.  This is where it gets difficult.  So if a student gets 4 correct answers, but doesn’t include units, are they really performing at grade level?  If they are asked to find area and perimeter, and their units are squared for perimeter and not squared for area, do they really understand the difference between both?  If a student does everything correctly except for they make a basic addition mistake, do they really not understand the objective of finding area of trapezoids?

I do love SBG because kids can’t have an A in the class simply because they work hard on homework and have an F in the class because they don’t do anything.  They actually have to know their stuff and earn their grade.  The grade they have is definitely refelective of what they know.

What I don’t like is for both parents and kids, a kid who receives a D or F knows that isn’t good.  Their parents know it too, obviously.  And I feel like before these kinds of grades would ignite some sort of fire to work a little harder next time for most kids, and parents would certainly understand at conferences that this was not acceptable.  However, no one really understands what a 1.0 means.  We all do our best to explain to the kids and parents what this really means, but it still doesn’t have the impact that an F has.

Overall though, I think we are on a great track in education with this movement and I am happy that I don’t have to try to do it on my own like many of you are trying to do right now.  It is much easier that all of us are in this together and so we are all explaining the same things in every class every year.

My Plan for Kids who are Falling Behind


One of the many amazing things about being part of this amzing twitterblogosphere is the “pressure” to push myself to do better.  For example, this week’s MS Sunday Funday topic is helping students who are behind in math.  Now, of course I want to push my students to do better, of course I provide opportunities to my kids to make up work they missed or didn’t understand or need help with, but could I do better at this?  OF COURSE!  So when I see this topic on the list and I read the amazing things that others are doing, I know it is time to come up with a better plan to do this in my classroom. 

I think the problem is that it is frustrating to put plans in place to help kids, set up times for them to get extra help, show up early, stay late, make extra copies… only to have the kids not show up.  I have tried several different things over the years, but nothing has worked so far for me and for my kids. 

Here is what I have come up with based on what has worked this year, what I think will work the best, and what I have read from the other blogs that have been submitted so far this week.  We have two 30 minute homeroom periods built into our day each day this year.  We have never done this in the past.  This time is designed for several purposes, but this exact topic is one thing that this time was built into our schedule for.  I typically have a few kids in during each homeroom period to make up or retake assessments or to ask questions on what we did in class if they were absent or didn’t understand.  But there are still more kids who I encourage to come in, but they don’t actually get to my room.  I think what I am going to do is set specific topics for each of those homeroom periods and post those topics outside my door.  For example, 4th hour today- area of triangles.  These will be current topics we are working on in class that unit.  I will also start to require students to come in for those days to get help then retake assessments when they are ready.  Students always have the option to do this, but I haven’t required it from them in the past.  I really just need to force these kids to get help, even when they aren’t advocating for themselves. 

I will let you know how it goes!

#msSunFun- 2012 in Review


August 2012 was when I first read about the mathtwitterblogosphere.  This was a major turning point in my professional career.  Until now, I hadn’t really read a whole lot of blogs, and I certainly NEVER planned on writing one.  But August was when I really started reading blogs that lead me to more blogs that lead me to more blogs that lead me to the Math Blogging Initatiation and I decided to jump.  I jumped into something I really had never been on my radar ever before.  But something told me to try it.  And through this, I met so many other people who were doing exactly what I was doing and we started sharing ideas.  Now, as of January 13, 2012, I am amazed to say I have had over 9,000 views of my blog.  That shocks me.  What is even more shocking is that people from 53 countries have viewed my blog.  How can that be?  Blogging has changed what I do professionally.  It has made me a better teacher because I get feedback from others and I have an open space where I can ask questions and share my thoughts without judgement.  It has been an amazing experience.

Other than the whole experience in general, by far the coolest thing that blogging has lead me to has been what I was able to do in my classroom this year with the book If the World were a Village.  Simply posting my project on here lead the author, David J. Smith, to contact me eventually leading to him Skyping with my students.  I have also seen the project that I made posted on several other websites, which I still cannot fathom. 

So thank you to those amazing bloggers who came before me and who have responded to my questions and comments with nothing but support and love.  I am honored to call myself a blogger alongside such inspiring people.

#msSunFun- Awesome blog posts this week


For #msSunFun this week, we are commenting on other awesome blogs and then posting about it.

#1: Live. Teach. Create.-  Pop Quiz I had been thinking about bringint this idea into my class, and then I read this post about pop quizzes.  Love the popcorn pictures 🙂  I want my kids to know that just because we already taught the lesson and took a unit test on the material, you still need to remember it and use it in class.

#2: Hands on Math- Ant Trivia Awesome idea about proportions with fun facts about ants.  This arrives with perfect timing while I am planning my proportions unit! 

#3: Math = Love- Unit Rates Love love love this idea to cut out prices from the newspaper and have the kids figure out unit rates.  So excited to save my paper this weekend and do this with my students!

#4: Simplifying Radicals- Proficien-tree So so excited to try this idea!  Leaves get put on a tree every time a student demonstrates proficiency.  So fun for the students to watch the trees grow!

#5: Hoppe Ninja Math- Like Terms Art Projects Love these art projects they created for combining like terms.  Definitely saved for use later this year!

#msSunFun- Sub Plans

Sub plans for math teachers are always so hard because you never know if the sub you get will be someone who is comfortable with teaching math or not.  I feel like more often than not, I have gotten people who aren’t, so I never leave plans assuming the sub will teach something new.  In the past, I have left some sort of practice that has to do with the unit we are doing at the time.  My school requires us to have emergency plans in place, but I haven’t ever use those because I have never had anything that would truly be an emergency (thank goodness!) that I wouldn’t be able to plan a specific practice activity for. 

Right now, my emergency plans are mostly puzzles from the Super Teacher Worksheet site.  Unfortunately, it won’t let me link right now, so that is a pain! Nothing super exciting that I use on there, just the logic puzzles they have.  Also, if you click on the word problems link, there are math stories that are pretty cool, even though they are for 4th and 5th graders, they will work pretty well for a sub day.

I don’t have anything earth shattering for sub plans, I can’t wait to see what everyone else shares for #msSunFun!

#msSunFun- Classroom Management


I have always felt like classroom management has always been one of my strengths.  Kids who misbehave in other rooms usually don’t have the same problems in my class.  This is DEFINITELY not all kids and DEFINITELY not all of the time.  I am in no way perfect at management and have to work a lot at it.  I think one of my strengths is in understanding middle school kids.  I haven’t always understood them and have had to learn how to relate to them over the last several years, but I feel that my teaching style that I have developed works pretty well with these crazy middle schoolers.  Some things that work well for me:

1.  Listen.  Remember.  Repeat.  When a kid tells you something, listen to them.  They could have told this story to any other adult or kid around you, but they chose YOU.  You might not find it interesting, but THEY do.  A student who knows you care about their personal stuff with care a lot more about you teaching them math.  But you aren’t done yet.  Remember what they told you, ask them about it later, bring it up again. 

2. Create inside jokes with different classes.  (This works especially well if it is a joke about yourself doing something silly.)  Kids like funny things.  It is ok to take a break once in a while and laugh, especially if it is a joke at your expense.  You don’t have to be all business all the time to earn respect.

3. Make your rules known right from the beginning, follow through when you say you will do something, BUT also RELAX!  I don’t know how to state this eloquently.  It is so important to have rules.  Not hidden rules, but clear expectations that you have from the very beginning that do not change based on the day and do not change based on the student and do not change based on if you are having a bad day or not.  Kids do not like when things are unpredictable.  Now for the big BUT… on rare occasions, and you will know when this is appropriate, just chill out on the rules.  Example: kid clearly having a bad day, just came from another teacher yelling at him in the hall, walks in without any materials.  Maybe just today, instead of yelling more at him, instead of giving him a consequence… try leaving him alone for a few minutes, then lend him one of your extra books, a pencil, and a piece of paper.  Without conditions or reminders.  Don’t hand him the paper and say, “just this once, don’t forget to bring your stuff tomorrow.”  Of course, if this is a daily thing, this idea doesn’t work.  We are talking a once time deal here.  But this kid clearly doesn’t need more yelling. 

4. Be fair.  It is worth stating again.  Be fair.  All kids, all situations, even on your bad days.  Kids recognize that you have a favorite that isn’t them really fast.  And it hurts.

5. I read about this a long time ago and I really try to stick with it.  Have the kids come up with their own consequence/compromise/solution whatever it is.  If you can live with it, tell them that, if you can accept part of what they are saying, tell them and have them come up with the rest.  For example: Student doesn’t have his math book today.  Let him choose what the solution is.  He might say, “just don’t do the homework.” My response, “Sorry, I can’t live with that, come up with something else.”  Then he might say, “I will share a book with ______” If you can live with that, tell them.  Or maybe change it to, “You can share, but not with _____ because he is across the room, how about _____ instead.”  (Note that that sentence does not end in a question mark).  Or he might say, “Can I borrow and extra book from you?”  or “Can I go to my locker for a planner signature?”  I am very against learned helplessness.  I feel that too many parents and teachers have solved everything for their kids for too long and now the don’t know what to do without you holding their hands.  It is sad.  Help them to take ownership of the solution and they will feel valued and comfortable with that solution instead of needing to rebel.

6. Laugh at yourself.  It is very tricky to find the balance between I-am-a-professional-and-your-teacher-and-must-be-respected and I-am-a-human.  But you are human.  And so are they. 

7. An extension from the last one… be professional.  Be the adult.  Kids don’t have the same respect for an adult who loves to act like a kid as they do for an adult.

8. Be calm.  Don’t yell.  If you yell all of the time they will learn to tune it out.  Raise your voice and change your tone slightly when it is needed in a serious situation.  When the class gets out of control loud, you being louder just adds to it.  Talk quieter in those situation.  Or sometimes I just stop talking and act out or point to everything I want.  They will stop talking and try to figure out why you are acting so crazy.

Tons of rambling there… hope it made sense to at least one person.  What other classroom management strategies have worked for you?  Join our #msSunFun this week!

#msSunFun- Unit Organization


My Sunday Funday post for today is about how I organize my units.  I have several huge binders, and each binder holds 3 units.

In the binder, everything is in page protectors.  The units are held together by a binder clip.  The first page protector has my unit plan.  My unit plans have the objectives covered on the first page, then the rest of the pages are broken down into individual lessons with objectives, activities I have planned, opportunities for reteaching or extension, and how I am assessing the lesson.  If you want my unit plan template, just let me know!

After the unit plan, the  next page protector has the extension activies (I always have these on one of my bulletin boards for kids to work on when they are finished with their regular work or to take home and work on).  Then each lesson or activity has its own page protector.  The master copies and answer keys to everything are also in there.

The last page protector has the unit test. 

I also make notes on post its after I do a lesson and note if the lesson went well or what changes I would make for next time.

#msSunFun- Math Games


This week’s #msSunFun is math games.  I have 2 go to games that we play often, but I am excited to hear about others. 

#1: 24

I actually have a set of these cards that I played at home when I was little, but even without the cards, this game is easy to play.  Give the students 4 numbers and they have to add, subtract, multiply, or divide to get to the number 24.  I usually do first with the answer wins.  It is awesome when class ends and we don’t have an answer and they ask me for the answer.  I always tell them, I don’t have the answer key!  I am working through the problem with you.  Sometimes I see the answer right away and sometimes I need to work a little harder.  Even if I see the answer, I never tell them and always have a student or two who come back between classes later in the day and say, “I got it!  I got it!”  The problem I have with this game is that there are often one or two kids who are very good at fast calculations, so their hands are the first up every time.  Then other students tend to give up.  So I usually say you can only win 3 times, then you are out. 

#2: The Dice Game

Each student needs a piece of scrap paper.  Everyone stands up, I roll 2 dice.  We multiply the 2 numbers on the dice to get a score.   If anyone thinks that that number is the best score they can get, they write that number down on their paper under round 1 and sit down.  They are finished for the round.  Then you roll again, multiply, but add that total to the previous one.  Again, if  you think this is the best score you can get, write it down and sit down.  Continue.  The trick is that at any point that a 2 shows on either die, anyone still standing earns a 0 for that round.  Then the round is over and you start completely over with everyone standing up for round 2.  Play as long as you want and at the end of the game, everyone adds up their total.  Highest total wins.